I say Picasso and you probably think Cubism, but what is currently on display at the Norton Simon Museum is something quite different – it’s over 80 prints exemplifying the prolific work in the medium of lithography that Picasso developed from the 1940s to 1960. The exhibit is called States of Mind: Picasso Lithographs 1945-1960, a selection of Picasso prints out of the more than 700 that the Norton Museum owns, chosen specifically because they demonstrate the evolution of some of his compositions, displaying them in various states of development and after subtle, and at times radical, adjustments.
When Picasso painted on canvas, each layer of color completely covered the layer under it. There was really no way to see the step-by-step progression of a piece. However, lithographs allowed him to see the development of his work through sequential stages. He could draw a design, print it (in a first state), rework it and print it again (in a second stage), repeating this process three, four, or ten times – as many as he found necessary. Each time he was left with a print to chart the maturing of his idea.
The States of Mind exhibit allows you to see that evolution. There is, for example, the Head of Young Girl piece in its various stages; from its first rendition, in which the young girl holds close resemblance to Picasso’s then girlfriend Francoise Gilot, to its last one, in which her face is made up by single lines that look more like the work of a child. There’s also (perhaps his most famous lithograph) The Bull, which one can see transformed 11 times – from a huge angry animal to what is more of a cave painting look-alike.
It’s an absorbing exhibit, with a red lithograph entitled “Two Nude Women,” a print of a boy that strongly resembles the artist himself, and a beautiful “Jacqueline Reading” print that was inspired by Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s second wife. Several of the works are signed and dated by Picasso’s own hand, sort of a “good to go” that declared the print final.
States of Mind will exhibit through Feb. 13, 2017. There will be lectures, a film series, a family festival, and several other activities that will complement the display and that are scheduled between now and the exhibition’s closing date. You can find information about those events at NortonSimon.org. Visitor information, prices, and museum hours are also posted on the website.
Photo: Display of ‘Head of Young Girl.’ Dena Burroughs photo.
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